Sunday, September 20, 2020

The Shining (1980)

It'd been quite a while since I'd seen The Shining on the big screen, so I went to a show in The Lighthouse last Halloween, and was surprised to find that they were showing the longer version (about a half hour longer than the 'European' version). It's also a restored version, and it does look and sound really fresh.

With one or two exceptions, I'm really not sure what the longer edit brings. It throws the pacing later on when things are really kicking off, the rhythm falters, I found. The scene with Wendy thinking aloud about how to sort getting the Sno-Cat mobilised felt utterly superfluous.

Another scene where she's running down the corridors brandishing the knife and encounters a seated bunch of cobwebbed skeletons just feels like something out of a different film. This is also the scene of one of the more darkly comic moments when a man in dinner attire with colossal head wound declares, "Great party, isn't it ?"

Another scene with Wendy prepping food with a portable TV nearby with a news item about a search for a missing woman, and approaching snow storm really don't add anything, as is also the case with Hallorann's return scenes of asking the air hostess what time they land, and ringing a station mechanic just feel completely superfluous.

There is a scene with Wendy and Danny watching a film on TV (which isn't plugged in - this is a ghost story after all). Of course, being Kubrick, it's not just any old film, but an early 70s film called Summer Of '42, about a seemingly idealised memory of a sexual encounter between a teenager and an older woman, after which his life is irrevocably changed. Hints possibly at inappropriate relationships between one or other parent and Danny ?

Also, we are into Room 237 territory here, and forensic dissections of certain scenes hidden layers - in this case the number 42, which appears elsewhere, though you'd be hard pressed to find it, which apparently relates to 1942 and the Nazi's ant-Jewish pogrom 'Kristallnacht'. The Indian burial grounds on which the Overlook is built have been made pretty clear early on, so the idea of further references to cultural oppression seem perhaps.. a bit overdone ?

I still think 6 year old Danny Lloyd is remarkable. Apparently they were able somehow to film all his scenes without him realising he was in a horror film. He retired from acting at the age of 10 after appearing in TV film. He's now a biology professor.

One scene in the longer version which does work for me is the doctor's visit to Danny early on, and the grim revelation of Jack's dislocation of Danny's shoulder in a drunken rage, which Wendy tries rather pathetically to pass off as "just one of those things". The doctors expression just seems to scream "He what ? He dislocated his shoulder ?? How the fuck did he manage that ?? Just what the fuck is going on here ??". Though perhaps the most disturbing aspect of this scene is the lack of any follow-up check-ups.. but then stranded incommunicado in the Overlook for 6 months is really going to work wonders for the Danny's PTSD, isn't it ? No other kids to play with, taken out of school for a ridiculous length of time..

I really like the early scenes with Scatman Crothers (who plays Hallorann), he just oozes personality. I love the way he pronounces the word 'toast' with that slight ringing sibilance on the s. I also really like the scenes with Joe Turkel ("your money's no good here. Orders from the house"). He's so utterly deadpan and sinister, especially when lit from underneath and with the white bar light directly behind him.

One of my favourite scenes is with Philip Stone after he spills drinks on Jack ("I’m afraid it's Advocaat sir, it tends to stain"). I really enjoy how the conversation evolves in the bathroom as Jack thinks he's sussed him, but Grady turns the tables on him with an unsettling mixture of deference and threat ("I'm sorry to differ with you sir, but you are the caretaker.. you've always been the caretaker.."). The carefully measured way Stone paces and so clearly enunciates his lines is really chilling. Like Turkel's scenes, he's back lit by an oppressive white light. The camera looks slightly up to him, down to Jack.

The big set piece with the tidal waves of blood still thrills, but the big driver for many of the scenes is the incredible music which hums, pulsates, rattles, scratches, roars and screams in an incredibly grim, feral manner that animates the scenes to great effect. The sense of deep unease is all pervasive, like a draught of cold air in a room. Of course Ligeti, Penderecki and Bartok didn't compose horror music, the pieces long pre-exist the film, but they are remarkably apt selections. I wonder how Penderecki and Ligeti felt about how it changed the public's perception of those pieces, which inevitably are saddled with the horror association ?

I was surprised to see no credit at the end for the Ray Noble piece, Midnight, The Stars and You, sung by Al Bowlly at the end (or the music in the Gold Room sequence) - only the classical composers and the score creators, Wendy Carlos and Rachel Elkind.

A trailer for The Shining 'sequel' (why does it need one ?), Doctor Sleep put me right off any vague notion of going to see it.. way too tediously gothic and long winded. Didn't think much of the book anyway. The name Doctor Sleep makes me think of... Harold Shipman, as referred to in that Fall song, What About Us - "What about us ! Shipman !!"

1 comment:

Beer Baron said...

The UK version is superior.